I used to be very passionate about programming. When I applied to 8th Light as an apprentice craftsman, I did their interview code challenge in four different languages just for fun.
Today as I'm doing a code challenge for an interview with Braintree, as I was googling how to do something in TypeScript, one blog post I came across started out by the author saying he was crazy about the language. Having felt that way myself about languages in the past, I understood and related to that sentiment, but it also stood out to me as very strange.
I mean, how can someone be crazy about a programming language? It's a tool, meant to accomplish a task, like sponges or hammers. It's a means to an end. Could someone ever be excited about a dish-washing sponge in the same way? Could someone be excited about getting and using a brand new hammer?
Sure, if they were used to sponges that didn't have the scrubby side, or hammers that were unbalanced and hard to wield. That's probably why I used to get so excited about new programming languages. C++ was hard to write OOP in, and Ruby was easier. Ruby's magic got really confusing, and Clojure's immutability was clearer. Objective-C made certain tasks difficult and verbose, and Swift made them easier. React is easier than UIKit.
So the passion I thought I had was probably in part just relief that the job of creating software was now easier than before. But that sentence kind of reveals another part: you're creating things, where everything is possible, and the only limit is your imagination. That's straight-up fun! And it's easy to be passionate about fun. But that's not real passion. Just like kindling, it'll burn out quickly: what's fun now will soon get old, and then you'll need to find a new fun. True passion is like a thick log, it lasts.
Once I realized that, I started working towards the end and not the means. I made a macOS app (keyboard-based window manager) that I've been using constantly for the last 4 years. It's an amazing feeling to create something and then actually use it to increase your own productivity. This is probably the same passion people had when they worked at Apple creating the iPod or the iPhone. This is probably why people want to work at Tesla or SpaceX.
But my problem with this kind of passion is that it's not anchored. There's no definite answer as to what software can make a truly and obviously incontrovertible positive change in the world. Many people will say this or that software is the path to a better future, and many people will disagree with them, and both will have good reasons on each side.
There's only one thing I'm truly passionate about that will keep me writing software day after day: my children. If I don't make money to buy food and pay rent, they'll go hungry and be homeless. It's my job to provide for them. It's my job to give them a good childhood and a good start to their life. It's my job to earn money so they don't have to worry or go without. And the only marketable skill I have is software, which I've gotten pretty good at.
So I will not discriminate against jobs based on lacking passion for what they do or what languages they use. I'll keep applying to any software jobs that use languages which I have a fair amount of experience with. I've seen certain potential employers—especially start-ups and corporations that grew out of start-ups—looking for programmers who have the first two kinds of passion, the kind that's like kindling and the kind that wants to change the world. Unfortunately I don't have either of those. But I think that's actually a strength: I'm able to work more steadily, with a much longer commitment, and I'll do any programming work, even the "boring" tasks.
I didn't write this intending to advertise, but since it's kind of related to the topic, I'm available for hire. If you have any software work you need done quickly and reliably, please get in touch with me.
My name is Steven Degutis, and I've been writing software professionally for almost a decade. During that time, I've written many apps and websites, quite a few techical articles, and kept up-to-date with the rapidly evolving software industry.
If you have software needs for web, mobile, or desktop, and are looking for a seasoned software professional, please reach out to me at email@example.com to set up a phone call.
- Self-employed – present
- Clean Coders – 5 years
- 8th Light – 2 years
- Big Nerd Ranch – 1 year
- Self-employed - 1 year
- Web: full-stack
- iOS (UIKit)
- macOS (Cocoa)
- REST APIs
- AWS / EC2 / ELB
- HTML5 / CSS
Over the past decade, I've written a total of 169 technical articles on various programming languages, frameworks, best practices, and my own projects, as I kept up-to-date and active in the software industry.
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- 2017 — "Clean code" isn't actually clean
- 2017 — Passion in your field is overrated
- 2017 — What I learned in 5 days of writing an experimental website
- 2014 — Age of the Polyglot
- 2013 — How to Program
- 2013 — Ignore the Naysayers
- 2013 — Writing Clearly
- 2012 — Reinvent the wheel
- 2010 — Good usability
- 2009 — Twitter is the wrong tool
- 2009 — We're all pretty bad at driving
- 2008 — Why I Code
|March||Notes on Haskell Extensions|
|February||Second thoughts on front-end tools|
|February||First thoughts on front-end tools|
|February||Some thoughts on GUIs|
|February||First thoughts on OCaml|
|February||First thoughts on Haskell|
Here are some of the projects I'm most proud of. They were created using a variety of technologies, running on several different platforms and OSes. They're all finished products, and many of them are open source.
I made Docks in 2009 for users who wanted to swap out icons in their Dock with a single click. Its unique functionality and design aesthetic attracted the attention of Apple, Engadget, MacWorld, and led to an acquisition of my start-up by Big Nerd Ranch.
This toy was made in a weekend to entertain my 1 year old daughter. It lets you create bubbles with your fingers, which then simulate physics by bumping into each other and falling.
When I couldn't find an app in the App Store that let me make very simple lists extremely quickly, I made one myself. I use it almost every day to organize and track my activities.
I created this app to increase my productivity by letting me move windows around in macOS using keyboard shortcuts. It grew into a community-driven highly extensible app, using Lua for its plugin system.
Implementing this elite social network gave me experience integrating both Apple Pay and credit card payments (via Stripe.com) seamlessly into web apps, for a frictionless and pain-free payment experience.
This isn't just any chatroom. In this web app, you can see what everyone is typing while they type it. I made this in order to scratch my itch for making real-time apps and games, and learned how to use WebSockets in the process.
This was written in 2009, before the time of Slack, when IRC was the main way for programmers to get short-term assistance from each other. Its purpose was to be a beautiful app with an emphasis on simplicity and usability over technical power.
This is an app I actually use every single day. It lets you move windows with global keyboard shortcuts. Since it uses Vim-like key bindings, it should feel pretty natural to any programmer. There's no configuration needed; it Just Works™.
As an evolution of Phoenix, Hydra was my first attempt at embedding a full Lua virtual machine into an Objective-C app, to make a lightweight and efficient window manager that focused on speed, low memory usage, low CPU usage, and overall being gentle on laptop batteries.
These may be tiny, but they're interesting technical feats.
|Lua4Swift||Swift framework for embedding Lua with a native Swift API.|
|choose||Command line fuzzy-matching tool for macOS that uses a GUI|
|music||Command line music daemon for macOS that only speaks JSON|
|hecto||Command line text editor with an embedded Lua plugin system|
|ZephSharp||Window manager for Windows using Clojure for scripting|
|management||Minimalist EC2 configuration & deployment tool in Ruby.|
|go.assert||Assertion helper package for writing tests in Go.|
|go.shattr||Go library for printing shell-attributed strings to stdout.|
|OCDSpec2||Objective-C based testing framework with Xcode integration.|